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Each of the characters studied at different institutions, some of which Sheldon felt were superior to others, of course. When taking a closer look at the characters, one can see that their educational background reflected their personalities and early lives and influenced their careers and relationships; for example, just take a glance at the tension between Howard and Bernadette once she got her doctorate and started making more money in season 8 of The Big Bang Theory. All these little details are an important part of what made The Big Bang Theory characters who they were, and it’s important that they’re remembered.
8 Stuart – Rhode Island School of Design
Unlike most of the main characters, Stuart’s field of expertise wasn’t in any scientific field. He studied Art at the Rhode Island School of Design and then opened his comic book store when he couldn’t get a job as a comic book artist. However, his comic book store wasn’t very successful, and Stuart’s self-confidence took a knock from the failed endeavor.
He showed off his drawing prowess from time to time in the series, such as when he drew a portrait of Penny and when he created the graphics for the book based on Howard’s time in space. At the same time, his comic book store started thriving, helping him regain a bit of his confidence and soon get a steady girlfriend.
7 Rajesh – Cambridge University
Raj owed his career in Astrophysics to Cambridge University. Thanks to his doctorate in the field, he secured a position at Caltech, where he currently works with his friends. In season 12, he also took on a part-time job at the Griffith Planetarium, where he explains the science of the cosmos. Getting that job was a moment of great growth for his character, as he finally stood up to Howard, who constantly made fun of him, and Raj also became more confident in himself and his abilities.
Cambridge was quite far from home for Raj, who was originally from New Delhi, India. However, throughout the series, he consistently expressed his dislike for his home and the food there, so his choice to study far from home ties in logically with that. Cambridge was far enough for him to enjoy a change of pace, environment, and cuisine — which he so often expressed love for.
6 Howard – MIT
If Howard had a nickel for every time he said the line, “I have a Master’s degree in Engineering,” he might have had enough money to rival his wife’s generous salary. He was proud of his MIT-obtained education, even though Sheldon always mocked him for being the only one out of their group without a Ph.D. Sheldon also made fun of Howard’s job in Engineering at Caltech on a regular basis, despite it being one of the university’s best fields and earning him a trip to space.
With MIT being an almost two-day road journey from Pasadena, many fans were surprised that Howard could venture so far from home at all, as he had an unhealthy attachment to his mother that was the subject of many jokes on the show. Considering he came back to work in Pasadena (his hometown) afterward, where he lived with his mother for most of his adult life, it seems the apron strings weren’t completely cut after all. He even joked that he’d probably still be living with his mother if he hadn’t met Bernadette in a song he wrote for her in the episode “The Romance Resonance.”
5 Bernadette – University of California
From time to time, Bernadette dropped comments about her time in catholic school where she learned many of the principles she followed in earlier seasons, such as not telling lies. Later, she studied Microbiology at the University of California, which she followed up with a Ph.D. while working at ZanGen, a big pharmaceuticals company.
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Bernadette’s personality evolved a lot from the time she was introduced in season 3. At first, she was a sweet girl who was uncomfortable telling lies and couldn’t even make fun of people. She attributed these parts of her character to her time in catholic shool where she said, “they kind of whup that out of you,” in the episode “The Wildebeest Implementation.” Later, lies rolled easily off her tongue and she became more liberal with mocking people. It was almost as if having such a high-paying job gave her the confidence to let out her meaner side.
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4 Amy – Harvard University
Amy got her Ph.D. in Neurobiology at Harvard University, which was a little far from her childhood home in Glendale, California. After meeting Sheldon and the others, she eventually took a job at Caltech, so the whole group was working together, except for Penny and Bernadette.
Growing up, she had a complicated relationship with her mother. From the few episodes when Mrs. Fowler made an appearance and the comments Amy made about her childhood experiences, her mother was rather overbearing and too controlling. Therefore, it makes sense that she chose to study at Harvard rather than locally, as it was an escape from her mother while also allowing her to learn something she loved at the same time.
3 Penny – N/A
Of all her friends, Penny was the least book-smart, but what she lacked in scientific knowledge, she made up for in street-smarts. In season 2, she confessed that she’d dropped out of community college and besides taking a few additional classes at a local college, she didn’t study any further.
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Sometimes, Penny felt insecure around her brainy friends, especially when they threw around science facts and j0kes that went over her head. For a while, she worked as a waitress and took a stab at acting, but neither of those worked out. When Bernadette got Penny an interview at her company, she was nervous because her educational background — or lack thereof — made her insecure. However, thanks to Bernadette’s persistence, Penny got the job and proved to be very good at it.
2 Leonard – Princeton University
Leonard works at Caltech University as well, but his field of expertise is Experimental Physics. Sheldon and Leonard often argue over which of their fields is more important, with Leonard pointing out that he designs experiments to prove the hypotheses Sheldon comes up with. Sheldon normally counters that with the assertion that his hypotheses don’t need proving and everyone should just take his word for it because he’s the smartest. This is often followed by a jab at Leonard’s alma mater, Princeton University, where he obtained his Ph.D.
Based on comments Beverly (Leonard’s mother) made about Leonard’s father cheating on her with a waitress from Princeton University Cafeteria, it seems that both of Leonard’s parents work there. It’s surprising then that Leonard studied there given his strained relationship with his mother and her indifference to him. It would have made more sense if he studied as far away as possible from her as he did by choosing to work at Caltech. However, considering Beverly’s controlling habits over her son and the fact that she was a stickler for traditions, it wouldn’t be shocking to find that she insisted on all her children studying at the same place.
1 Sheldon – California Institute of Technology
Thanks to Young Sheldon, fans of The Big Bang Theory have more insight on Sheldon’s educational background more than any of the other characters. He studied at Medford High School before going to East Texas Tech when he was 11, graduating summa cum laude at 14 years. Given how protective his mother was of him and how young he was at the time, it’s not surprising that he started out his college education closer to home.
After that, he attended the California Institute of Technology for his doctorate before he joined Caltech, where he currently works as a Theoretical Physicist. The university is known for its strong science and engineering departments, which perfectly aligns with Sheldon’s goal to be part of great scientific advancement — or really, to be the only one making them.
NEXT: Are The Big Bang Cast Really Smart? Ranking The Actors On Their University Degrees
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About The Author
Tricia is a List Writer for Screen Rant with a background in creative writing and a love for all things film and TV. She fell in love with reading at the age of 10 after discovering that her favorite movie, Matilda, was based on a novel. That led to her first in-depth analysis of literary work to her mom and anyone who’d listen. If she’s not reading or writing stories with crazy plot twists, she’s bingeing a new series and ranting about character arcs and plot holes. Or she’s eating French fries.
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